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How to Format a Hard Drive in Windows 10/8/7

SecurityOperating SystemsBackup & Recovery

By: Anna Lan, editor at MiniTool Solution

There are many reasons why we would need to format a hard drive. For example, you may have bought a new computer and would like to give your old hard drive to a friend or colleague, and as a result, you need to format the hard drive to protect your privacy. Or perhaps your PC got infected with malware or a virus, rendering your hard drive inaccessible, and Windows says it needs formatting to access. Or, you installed a new drive, it needs to be formatted before we can use it. The reasons to format are plenty!

Before you format, it’s important to understand that formatting will destroy all data on the selected partition. If we format a data drive, then all personal files are lost; if we format the system partition, the current Operating System (OS) will fail to boot. So make sure you really need to format before you attempt to do so. However, if you’ve determined that a format is necessary, you need to understand how to properly format a hard disk, specifically in Windows 10/8/7, and thankfully, there are 3 easy ways to format your hard drives using built-in Windows tools.

Three Ways to Format a Hard Drive in Windows

1. Use Diskpart

Diskpart is a command-line disk partitioning utility that is frequently used to manage disks and partitions, because it supports the use of scripts to automate many tasks.

To format the hard drive using Diskpart, please follow these steps:
Run Diskpart at Start menu. Then in the command prompt window enter these commands in order:

  1. List disk
  2. Select disk n
  3. List partition
  4. Select partition n
  5. Format fs=ntfs label=name quick
  6. Exit

Tip: "n" is the disk number or partition number; "ntfs" can be replaced by fat32; "name" can be anything you like; "quick" is optional.


2. Use Disk Manager

Windows Disk Manager is always the first choice for hard drive formatting because it is easy to access and operate for average users. No matter which drive we want to format, an external hard drive or local disk, disk manager can do it quickly. Here are instructions on how to use Disk Manager:

  1. Run "diskmgmt.msc" to navigate to Disk Management (or right click This PC - Manage - Storage - Computer Management to reach).
  2. Then right click the partition we want to format and choose "Format…"
  3. In the pop-up new window, enter the volume label, select a file system, allocation unit size as well as quick format or not.
  4. Then confirm that we want to format the hard drive.

Disk Manager

3. Use Explorer

Usually, we use Windows Explorer to access files, documents and drives. However, this program can also be used to format hard drives.

  1. Open Windows Explorer and navigate to This PC. Here, we can see all our drives listed.
  2. Right click a hard drive and choose "Format…" A small window will appear on screen, where you can set volume label, select file system, allocation unit size as well as quick format or not (just as the options we had in Disk Manager).
  3. Next, confirm that you want to format the hard drive.

Tip: Please refer to "Windows was unable to complete the format" to solve this error if it appears when trying to format the RAW drive.

These three methods are helpful in formatting hard drives, but notice that only File Allocation Table (FAT) and New Technology File System (NTFS) are offered using the built-in Windows tools. What if we want to format an external hard drive with Ext or Linux file systems? Here, we recommend using another partition manager called MiniTool Partition Wizard.

For Ext or Linux: Partition Wizard Free Edition

Partition Wizard is a full-featured Windows disk manager that helps manage hard drives better in Windows 10/8/7. For example, it can be used to migrate OS to solid state drive (SSD) or hard disk drive (HDD), to copy hard drive for an upgrade, to recover lost partitions, to convert Master Boot Record (MBR) disk to GUID Partition Table (GPT), to rebuild corrupt MBR, etc. In addition, it’s clear and easy User Interface(UI), makes this program easy to use.

When it comes to formatting a hard drive, external hard drive, USB flash drive, or even an SD card, Partition Wizard offers more choices on file systems. You can format a hard disk to FAT32 (able to format a partition larger than 32GB to FAT32, breaking FAT32 limit in Disk Management), NTFS, Ext2/3/4 and Linux Swap.

Here’s how to use Partition Manager in Windows:

  1. Launch the program and click the partition that needs to be formatted. Then select "Format Partition" from the action pane.
  2. In the pop-up window, specify the label, file system, and cluster size and apply the change.

Partition Wizard

Tip: Do you know how to format C drive that contains Windows OS? Since Windows won't allow formatting system partition (image attached below, format feature greyed out), we suggest using Partition Wizard Bootable CD (paid feature in Partition Wizard) to finish doing this under WinPE environment, where all operations are allowed in Partition Wizard Bootable (see Partition Wizard is able to format D the boot partition ).

Partition Wizard Paid Plan - Bootable CD

Partition Wizard - Paid Plan

We hope this post has been helpful for you in determining why you may want to format your hard drive, and the tools you can use to get the job done properly. Good luck!

About the Author

Anna Lan is an editor running a blog on MiniTool Solution. Anna likes to write articles about tech stories, trouble shooting tips and software tutorials. Anna also enjoys giving readers suggestions on how to solve computer issues. You can connect with Anna on Twitter and Google+.